By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — With winter arriving Tuesday, one local group is doing its best to connect youth to people who may need help shoveling snow, but more volunteers are needed.
A borough resident reached out to Naugatuck Youth Services to begin a snow shoveling program in December 2020 after seeing a local snow shoveling brigade on the TV news. The group then started to meet with Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, Naugatuck Police Department and Naugatuck Senior Center early this year, NYS Executive Director Kristin Mabrouk said.
The borough snow brigade, a first-year pilot program, will look to pair youth with people over 65 years old or disabled who live in single-family homes. The program has about 50 homes registered and 35 volunteers, Mabrouk said.
“It’s a beneficial program for everybody who gets involved,” she said.
Mabrouk said nearly every time the group gets any media coverage, more people request help than those willing to volunteer.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to help all those people if we don’t get more volunteers,” Mabrouk said.
The group has started an overlay computer program that blends a map of addresses of those who requested help with another map of registered volunteers, Mabrouk said. Many homes off Field Street, Hillside Avenue and a handful near City Hill Street don’t have any volunteers living nearby who have registered for the program.
Mabrouk said the group is trying to get as many volunteers as it can.
“People are less connected even in their own neighborhood,” she said. “We’re trying to match people up.”
Mabrouk said anyone can sign up to volunteer, but it’s a great opportunity for children who need community service hours because this winter will have traditional snow days. Children under 12 have to be with a parent or older sibling to participate.
Mayoral aide James McGrath said Ion Bank Foundation and Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967 awarded grants to the borough totaling $10,000, which go toward a yard-cleaning program for seniors and high school students, and the upcoming snow brigade. The funds could be used to purchase equipment needed for shoveling or compensate volunteers.
“She’s doing a tremendous job not only trying to identify those in need, but people who can help,” McGrath said of Mabrouk.
The borough is trying to mirror what Waterbury has done, Mabrouk said. Waterbury Police Activity League has organized its own snow brigade over the last several years to give back to the community.
“That’s a really good way to beat the winter blues, especially in at time that’s stressful,” Mabrouk said. “Getting people connected and a way to give back. For people to easily get out of their house is very valuable, too.”